Thursday, August 21, 2014

Expect Change

Change.

There's that word again.

I bet, in your church, it is met with sighs and groans and the rolling of eyes. Crossed arms and shaking heads are immediate responses whether the subject is worship style or carpet color.

God designed each of us to long for and need stability. He created us with a desire for consistency, predictability and assurance. However, He placed us in a fallen world that is constantly changing.

We see the negative effects of sin causing change all around us. The world isn't as safe as it used to be. My daughter attends a school on our street, but I wouldn't dare let her walk home alone. I've heard too many sad, sick stories . . .

There are positive changes happening too. It is the order of the world, the way God planned it, for the weather to change day-by-day, for the crops to grow and be harvested, for children to mature and get older . . .

Yet, whether change is "good" or "bad" in our opinion or by Biblical standards, it will always be a part of our lives until Jesus comes or calls us home.

I believe I fight change because of a lack of faith on my part. Change reminds me that I need to seek the One who never changes to be the all I need. Change drives me back to Him, the Almighty who is the same yesterday, today and forever. Change, if I let it will reaffirm where my hope and security lie.

I know God put my desire, for time to stand still and enjoy this moment, so I will long after Him.

Only God knows what changes He is instituting in your church and life right now, whether they are anticipated or catching you off guard. Whatever it my be, dear sister, remember that the issue is deeper than the carpet color and more eternal than a guitar vs. an organ. God is using the process of change to call us, and our churches, closer to Him.



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Change and Context

Change.

How does that make your feel?

Sometimes even the mention of the word can send me into an emotional frenzy.

I guess it comes back to context.

I've been doing a lot of thinking and praying and processing about change the last few days. I even began a post two days ago, but couldn't quite organize my thoughts and feelings into any kind of complete understandable wording. This morning, this whole idea of change and context is where God seems to be providing some kind of cohesive meaning.

In the last few months we have been slowly changing the furniture in our den. First, the new television dictated the removal of the armoire that was home to the old one. We found a great replacement cabinet at Target. This, and the dog getting sick on the matching chair, hurried the replacement of our much loved, hand-me-down (Thank you Aunt Sherry!) sofa. After 25 years of use and too many moves to count, its age really did show.

We donated the furniture to our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. I prayed as the truck left the driveway that another family or families could be blessed. Yet, I felt strange. I love my new sofa and am excited about the chairs my father-in-love is having recovered for us. I can't wait to see what the ottoman will look like when my husband is finished recovering it with the great material we picked out together . . . But, it was still hard to let go.

I remember shopping with my new husband well over a decade ago to find just the perfect armoire. I fed each of my three babies on that sofa and it was the couch we took our Sunday Siestas on for so long.

I had to weigh our needs, and -honestly- our wants to go ahead and make this change. The future, a newly furnished room is better than our old, beat up, familiar past.

Yes, this may be a silly comparison, but this is exactly what God wants to do with our hearts if we will let Him. When we do, He does amazing things with the interiors of our very souls. The context of this change is so very good. Whatever it is that we must let go in order to receive the blessing of His presence in return is so worth it in the end . . .


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

An Overcomer!!

Many of our hearts are hurting over recent world events, suicide, depression, etc. and we need a word of encouragement from our Lord.

Revelation 2:12-17  Message to Pergamum

12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write:  The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this:

13 ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality.

15 So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

16 Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.

17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’

Revelation 2:12-17 is a message to the Church at Pergamum.  There were many in that Body who were faithful, who held fast His name--even unto death.  Antipas was a martyr….one who gave his life because of his faith in Christ…as many people around the world are doing right this very second.  Sobering. 

We are promised that those who are “faithful until death” will receive the Crown of Life (Revelation 2:10).  Encouraging.  Beautiful.  Picture believers who are suffering today…overcoming and being faithful casting those crowns of life before the throne!

John goes on to say that there are also those who are following ungodly teaching and going the way of the world and are stumbling blocks and to repent….and that He is coming!!  It is imminent!!

My favorite part of this passage is found in verse 17.  To those who overcome!!  What is an overcomer?  Are you an overcomer??? 

I John 4:4-5 says that Jesus has overcome the world!!  We, too, are overcomers as we, by faith, overcome the world!  Those brothers and sisters around the world who are suffering right now are overcomers!!

What is the promise to them?  To us?  That we will receive some of the hidden manna and a white stone with a name written on it that no one else knows!!

This gives me goose bumps!!  Hidden manna?  What is that??  Take some time to do a study in Exodus 16 on the manna God provided the Israelites.  Why did He provide manna?  To test them!!  NOT simply to feed and provide for them.  What does the word manna mean?  “What is it”!!  Manna was bread from above and our Bread from above is Jesus!!  Those who overcome will get Jesus!!!  Why is it hidden?  God instructed Moses to preserve approximately three quarts of the manna for future generations!!  It has been ‘hidden’ (like Jesus in heaven) waiting for the overcomers!  Christ—hidden and secret—only perceived through faith!  A mystery!

Secondly, John says that those who overcome will also get a white stone…with a new name written on it!!  Oh, how I cannot wait to know what name God will give me!!!  I am known as Dana to many, Buns to my husband, Nana to my dad, Sis to my brothers, Mimi to my grandkids Mom to my kids and I am super excited to know what secret name God calls me!!!

I was curious as to what the white stone meant….so I did some research.  Many commentaries and theologians much smarter and far more spiritual than me had several different interpretations but, to me, the one that lined up with the rest of scripture the best is this:

In Rome, the winners of athletic events were given white stones with their name on it…those who were victorious got the white stone!!  Then the stones were used as entrance 'tickets' to the winners banquet!!!

Oh my chili!!!  Did you pick up on that???  Do you see the beautiful correlation??  We are in the race of a lifetime….Hebrews 12 tells us to run it with endurance…with our eyes focused on Jesus!!  When we cross the finish line—and this life is over—we will be overcomers!!  We will be handed a white stone….with a special name on it….and we will sit at the banquet table with our King!!  Feasting on the manna from heaven!!!  Yummy!

Do not be dismayed.  Do not be discouraged.  Do not give up the race.  Keep praying.  Keep persevering.  Keep focused.  Be an Overcomer and spend the rest of your life encouraging and enabling and praying for others to be Overcomers!!

See you at the Banquet Table!!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

It's Just Stuff


Over the last two and half years my brother and I have dealt with two sick parents, who have both passed away.  Dad left us in May to join Mom in heaven.  In mid July my brother and I held an estate sale at our parent’s home.  It was a difficult weekend for the both of us but we learned some important lessons.

*If you don’t move for over 50 plus years, you gather a lot of stuff.

*You never discard a book of a person from the Depression era because you never know what might be tucked inside it.

*There is no need to keep every scrap of paper, church bulletin, Cool Whip bowl or plastic butter container.

*Never put scraps of wood and metal in the attic.

My list could go on and on but I will not burden you with it. 

My brother and I would open boxes, closets, and drawers and be amazed that the “stuff” our Depression era parents kept.  They could reuse old Ziplock bags and tin foil better that anyone I can imagine.

However, one lesson my brother and I did learn during the estate sell that will stick with us always,  When we looked around the house, garage, and patio at the accumulated items, we shook our heads and said, “It’s just stuff.” 

What we took away from our childhood home were the memories.  We were raised by godly parents who saw the importance of having us in church.  Many parents today allow their children to choose if they want to be in church.  No, if your children are under eighteen and live in your house, you should make church a priority. 

Our parents instilled us a work ethic.  If you want to purchase an item, save for it.  Today too many people buy what they want when they want it and get deeper in debt.  Today many children believe they need it all now.  Teach your children to be proud of working and earning material possessions.

Last, our parents taught us that loving people is the greatest gift you can give to someone.  Bake a cake for a hurting friend.  Visit with your neighbors.  Show kindness to random strangers.  Why, because you may be the only Jesus they see.

In the end, our houses will be full of “stuff.”  However, what will your children remember most?  Will they be able to look around the house and say “It’s just stuff?”

 

 

 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Real Life Happens in the Ministry Too


I just returned from having lunch with one of my daughter-in-laws and one of her friends who just happens to be a pastor’s life.  I have made another big discovery.  God created chocolate so pastors’ wives can deal with preacher’s kids (PKs).

Today, as we were eating at Chick-fil-a and laughing, another young mom approached the young pastor’s wife at my table and said, “I believe your son may be naked in the playground.”  Well, of course I just died laughing which was probably not appropriate at the moment.  The poor young pastor’s wife just got that mortified look in her eyes and darted to the playground area.  There she found her two and half year old son stripped to his birthday suit.  As she began redressing and lecturing him on staying clothed, her son proudly announced, “I still have my socks on.”

By now I am doubled over in giggles.  First we are in a restaurant (Christian at that) and second the naked child on the playground is a PK.  I don’t know but the scene just made perfect sense to me.

Life happens in the ministry.  Sometimes life is quite messy.  A wayward teen becomes involved with the wrong crowd.  A ministry couple struggles in their marriage.  You name it.  It just gets messy.  Ministry can also be quite comical.  The pastor gets tongue tied and instead of saying he is taking “blood pressure medicine” announces the doctor put him on “birth control pills.”  (Yep, this really happened).  Perhaps the music minister is singing one song and the pianist is playing another.  Of course, sometimes PKs just stripped to their birthday suits at Chick-fil-a.

The important thing to remember real life happens in the ministry just like it happens to your congregation. 

 

 

 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Running the Race


Recently, I was reading one of the many ministers’ wives Facebook pages I subscribe to.  One sight in particular reaches out to ladies come from different denominations.  However, it is always so interesting to see that all ministers’ wives face the same struggles.

On one certain day a post caught my eye.  One sweet sister posted she was through with her church.  The congregation was “mean-spirited” and did not support the staff in particular her husband.  She had also been verbally attacked many times by the ladies of the church.  Her last statement broke my heart.  She wanted her church to die.

Girls, this story just broke my heart.  We all have experiences that are unpleasant.  Let’s face it.  Church people can be mean and I dare say not one of us is part of a perfect church.  I know I have been treated unfairly and attacked many times over our thirty plus years in the ministry and it never quits hurting.  Yet I have never walked away from God’s bride or our calling.

There are days when I get so discouraged by the lack of true Christian love in the body of Christ.  Don’t get me wrong.  There are wonderful people in all our churches, but if we are honest, there are those among the body of Christ who aim their fiery darts at our hearts and wound us deeply.  

In regards to this hurting sister, God would not allow me not to respond.  I simply encouraged her to place her focus on the Lord and not on Satan’s schemes.  Satan wants her and her husband to be sidetracked from doing God’s ministry.  If she chooses to walk away, she not only allow the naysayers to win but she will harm her husband’s ministry too.  Trust me, Satan will applaud every time a ministry fails.

Sisters, I encourage you to keep fighting the fight and running the race because God’s calling is the best prize.

 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Lessons From The Mountain Top

As you stand atop a high mountain, what do you see? As far as the eye can see, there are deep ravines, cascading valleys, broad plains of beautiful wildflowers, flowing streams and rivers, and crystal clear lakes. All of these wondrous sights enable us to be in awe and wonder of our Creator who is worthy to be praised!

As great as a physical mountain top vista is, how much greater is a spiritual mountain top experience, when you are allowed to sense the presence of the Lord in a fresh new way!

I had such an experience this past week, as my husband and I attended a church conference that truly revived my spirit. In every conference session, worship service, and the many other events that I participated in, the Lord truly spoke to my heart. And incidentally, our conference was in an actual mountain setting!

On one afternoon at the conference, many of the women attended a session that was just for our ears only, called “Woman 2 Woman”. We heard from a pastor’s wife who shared from her heart about “people pleasing”. I believe that all of us as women probably struggle with that from time to time, but the “people pleasing” syndrome can really trip up those of us who are pastors’/ministers’ wives.

Being honest with ourselves, we all desire for those in our churches to like us and accept us. There is no such thing as a “perfect pastor’s wife”, therefore, we should stop trying to be one. There are some in our churches who expect us to be that way, and when we fail to meet peoples’ unrealistic expectations, we feel rejected, ostracized, and our feelings are greatly hurt.

Our sister shared with us some basic points that I thought are worth passing along to you as we attempt to gain freedom from the bondage of always trying to please others:

1. Minimize what others think of me.
What I learned: People will always have their opinions about what you should or should not be doing. Only those who are a part of your trusted inner circle, such as spouses, family, friends, mentors, etc. can be trusted to truly speak into your life because they love you and can genuinely give valuable encouragement and sometimes much needed constructive criticism.

2. Minimize what I think of myself.
What I learned: Many times your own opinion of yourself can be too high, thinking more of yourself than you should, causing arrogance and pride. Or your opinion can be too low, leaving you with feelings of worthlessness or self-pity. In order to have a balanced view of yourself, you must know who you are in Christ, it is only in Him that you know your true worth, remember He died for you because He loved you.

3. Maximize what God thinks of me!
What I learned: As you grow in Christ make it your primary goal in life to strive to find out what pleases the Lord. This is what we are commanded to do in 2 Corinthians 5:9 and Ephesians 5:10. If your ways are pleasing to Christ,isn’t that what truly matters?

These words of affirmation are just a snippet of the many things that I either learned afresh or was gently reminded of from the mountain top. Again, I thank God for all that He poured into my heart during that memorable week, and I am grateful to share this small sample with you.